Brest Fortress has long been a symbol of fortitude of our soldiers and officers during the Great Patriotic War. In this fortress Hitler’s troops first received a real fierce repulse.
Maps of the Brest Fortress
The capture of the Brest Fortress was one of the first tasks of the Nazis under the Barbarossa Plan. They hoped to do it within a few hours, not expecting to meet any serious resistance there.
However, the repulse of the Red Army units in the Brest Fortress thwarted all their plans, and the Wehrmacht troops were forced to capture this fortification for several days, losing a lot of manpower and military equipment.
Fortress in Brest on the map
Map of the Brest Fortress
History of the Brest Fortress
The city of Berestye, on the site of which the Brest Fortress stands today, is mentioned in the “Tale of Bygone Years”. It was a rich city, but it was located at the junction of lands, so it often changed hands between Russians, Poles and Lithuanians.
Brest Fortress was built at the behest of Russian Emperor Nicholas I on an island where the rivers Western Bug and Mukhavets meet. Here is the most direct and shortest route from Warsaw to Moscow.
The fortress was a two-story structure with powerful thick walls and five hundred casemates. It could hold more than 12,000 people at once. And the walls withstood every weapon that existed in the 19th century.
Around the natural island where the Brest Fortress stands, several artificial islands were created with additional fortifications to protect the citadel from enemy troops.
The fortress was built in the early 1940s of the 19th century.
Over time, military engineers came to the conclusion that the fortress of Brest needed a third line of defense to protect the citadel at a distance of nearly 10 km. So here were built artillery battery, barracks, strongholds and forts.
An extraordinary find
At the beginning of 1942, in the most terrible times of the Great Patriotic War, the Nazis were advancing deep into the USSR, and the Red Army was trying to stop them. A division of the Wehrmacht was defeated near Orel and its archive was seized.
In the captured archives was found a report with accompanying documents, in which a German officer reported the capture of the Brest Fortress. Thus appeared the first information about what really happened in Brest in June 1941.
By the time the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union, this fortress was essentially a military town where Soviet border guards and their families lived. It was used as a barracks.
Military exercises were planned for June 22, so various army units arrived in Brest Fortress. And Brest was stormed by an elite infantry division of the Wehrmacht, which had already traversed half of Europe.
The Germans had a plan for the Brest Fortress. Since. They had already taken it from the Poles once, using aerial bombardment, and knew all its strengths and weaknesses. So we started traditionally – with artillery shelling, and then the assault followed.
Quickly the German storm troopers reached the citadel through the Terespol fortification, occupied the canteen, the clubhouse, and some casemates. Our soldiers and officers took up defensive positions, and the first squads of stormtroopers were surrounded.
The next day the second attack of the Nazis began. And our military had time to organize their defenses and were confident that they only had to hold their positions, waiting for reinforcements. They could no longer communicate with the outside world.
The Germans’ attempt to seize the Brest Fortress failed; they withdrew their troops and resumed shelling as darkness fell. Importantly, the Wehrmacht retreated for the first time since the beginning of World War II.
The defenders of the fortress continued to shoot back and launch counterattacks. In between periods of brutal bombardment, the Nazis offered our fighters to surrender. Nearly 2,000 people have done so, including. women and children.
On the third day Brest was taken, as reported to Hitler. However, inside the Brest Fortress, Red Army officers ordered the resistance to the enemy to continue, to hold the defense at all costs, to stand to the death.
End of Defense
Realizing that the defenders of the Brest Fortress would not surrender, the Nazis call in the air. The fortress was bombed, air bombs were dropped on it, penetrating the casemates. After that, German stormtroopers burst in again.
Historians tend to believe that the defense of the fortress lasted 8 days, although the inscriptions found on the walls were made by Red Army soldiers in July and even August, when the active part of the defense has developed into guerrilla resistance.
Only three years into the war, Belarus and the Brest Fortress were liberated by the advancing Soviet army. The once impregnable fortress lay in ruins. The main causes of the destruction were prolonged artillery fire.
The initial inspection uncovered many writings of Brest defenders scrawled by them on the brick walls of the fortress. They talked about how their partisan war with the enemy was going on for almost a month after the Germans seized the fortress.
Remembrance of the Brest Fortress
The world learned much later about the heroism of Soviet soldiers, the defenders of the fortress in Brest. But legends about the unparalleled heroism of our soldiers in the defense of the Brest Fortress appeared in 1942.
At that time, the Soviet press published the first articles giving details about this tragedy and the incredible feat of heroes. For the first time the names of soldiers and officers and some figures on weapons and ammunition used were announced.
All the archival records on the defense of the Brest Fortress were collected by Sergey Smirnov.
Konstantin Simonov played a major role in keeping the memory alive by writing a drama and making a documentary and a feature film.
Over time, poems about the defense of the fortress appeared, and they were quickly set to music. In the mid-60s the Brest Fortress was given the title of a hero. A few years later, a memorial complex appeared there.
History of the memorial
The funds for this complex were raised by the Soviet people. And the government decided to create a monument to the courage of our soldiers from the ruins. For this purpose, a creative team was assembled to design.
In the early 1970s, the complex was opened, and today it is visited by tourists from many countries around the world. They pay special attention to the panorama visible from the hill. You can see the citadel, Muhavec and the largest monuments of the memorial.
In the center of the memorial Eternal Flame burns, next to it about five decades of the Post of Memory, it serves local pioneers and young soldiers, tourists love to watch their changing of the guard.
The Underground of the Brest Fortress
It is interesting to walk around the underground fortress, everything here is covered with mysteries and legends. Not all of them are to be believed. Most of them are devoted to the history of the fortress of the 19th century, that there is an underground passage from Brest to Warsaw.
In the dungeons remained the memory of the Red Army soldiers who held the fortress defense. There are many preserved inscriptions, in which the Soviet fighters say goodbye to their homeland and their lives, but do not want to retreat and surrender to the enemy.
There are still legends that during the time the Nazis were in the Brest Fortress, ghosts often appeared from the dungeon, ruthlessly avenging their enemies for their fallen comrades. They always shot without missing a shot.